March 1, 2018
U.S. Department of State Hosts World Wildlife Day Event to Highlight Threats to Big Cats
In honor of World Wildlife Day, the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) hosted a “Big Cats and their Habitats” roundtable discussion on March 1 at the U.S. Department of State. Participants included diplomats from nations where big cats are found in the Americas, Africa, and Asia; U.S. government officials; international organizations; and representatives from NGOs and scientific institutions. Discussions focused on how global conservation efforts and innovative solutions can better protect big cat populations in the future. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Walsh, Secretary-General for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) John Scanlon, and OES Director of the Office of Conservation and Water Christine Dawson delivered remarks.
Big cats, such as lions, tigers, jaguars, and mountain lions, are magnificent animals and jewels of the world’s natural heritage. As dominant predators located at the top of the food chain, they also keep ecosystems in balance. Without big cats, natural systems weaken and ultimately people suffer.
World Wildlife Day, marked annually on March 3, is an opportunity to take stock of the important work being done internationally to protect endangered species against threats such as wildlife trafficking, human-wildlife conflict, and habitat loss. This year’s theme, “Big Cats: Predators under Threat,” provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the plight of big cats and to galvanize support for the many global and national actions that are underway to save these iconic species.
The United States has identified countering wildlife trafficking – the illegal poaching, transit, trade, and sale of wildlife – as a priority area for strengthened enforcement. This was highlighted in Executive Order 13773 on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking signed by President Trump in February 2017. To protect big cats, the United States is working with other countries, NGOs, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Currently, all eight species of big cats are listed on Appendix I or II to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The statuses of these species are also found on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List and range from “Threatened” to “Vulnerable” to “Endangered.” For more information: https://www.cites.org/eng/app/index.php and http://www.iucnredlist.org.
Public awareness is critical to protecting big cats. To bring the stories of these animals to people all over the world and to mark World Wildlife Day, the Department of State will partner with the International Big Cats Film Festival. This film festival is organized as part of the global World Wildlife Day celebration by the CITES Secretariat and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, an NGO dedicated to promoting public awareness and stewardship of wildlife and wildlife habitat. Five of the winning films are available for special showcase screenings at U.S. embassies, American Centers, and American Spaces.
For more information, contact OES-PA-DG@state.gov and follow the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on Twitter @StateDeptOES and #WorldWildlifeDay.